Selma church praises God after daycare staff saves 70 kids from deadly tornado
A congregation in Selma, Alabama, praised God and their hero daycare staff on Sunday for saving the lives of some 70 children in their care as deadly tornadoes swept through parts of the southeastern U.S. last Thursday.
Members of Crosspoint Christian Church met in the church's parking lot for worship on Sunday to give thanks. Despite the devastation of property they suffered, no one from the church community was among the nine fatalities left in the aftermath of at least 35 possible tornado touchdowns in the region.
"Nothing but by the grace of God that they walked out of there," the Rev. David Nichols of Crosspoint Christian Church told the Associated Press about the survival of the children and staff.
Had it not been for the quick thinking of daycare teachers to gather the children, who range in age from infants to 5-year-olds, in four separate bathrooms, the damage from the tornado would likely have been more devastating for the congregation.
"I was praying, and I kept telling them, 'It's OK. I got you. You're OK. I love you all,'" Shana Lathan recalled telling her class as they huddled inside the bathroom while the storm wreaked havoc on the building and nearby property.
Another teacher, Sheila Stockman, told the AP that when the storm was over, and they opened the bathroom door, they realized parts of the building were gone.
Daycare worker Amanda McCloud teared up during an interview with Fox Weather, where she revealed that the experience had left her in shock.
"We were in an office, and we only have four bathrooms in here, and we have 70-something kids. So they were all full, and we were in an office just on the other side of that roof. And the roof was coming down, and I was running back and forth. First … to see if the roof in the bathroom was gone, and it wasn't, so I was going back and forth to get the kids to the bathroom," McCloud explained.
"Stuff was just everywhere, and it was raining on top of them, and the babies were soaking wet, and one of them got scratched. It was crazy."
When she first heard the sound of the tornado coming, McCloud said she screamed.
"I was in sheer panic. I'm the only one that I heard screaming, but I was hollering. I had a panic attack, for sure. It was really bad," McCloud said.
She said she shielded a 7-week old baby as the roof to the day care center collapsed after the power went out.
As other churches in the city look to recover from storm damage, Rev. Leodis Strong of Selma's historic Brown Chapel AME, which has been handing out hot meals and supplies, said there are still many people in need.
"There are so many people hurting here right now that there is sort of like a mutual misery," he told the AP, "which requires a shared hope and a shared vision to help us to help each other through this."